Deja vu all over again when Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, echoed a famous dress worn by Princess Diana.
The Duchess of Cambridge, the former Catherine Middleton, turned back the clock today when she appeared in a black evening dress eerily reminiscent of an iconic gown worn by Princess Diana.
Thirty years ago Lady Diana Spencer had her first evening outing with her fiance, Prince Charles. Her public image as a Sloane Ranger-ish kindergarten teacher changed overnight when she turned up in a revealing black silk taffeta gown. Diana was 19 at the time.
The press and public enjoyed seeing so much of the princess-to-be, but Diana was reportedly criticized behind closed doors at Buckingham Palace for wearing the low-cut dress, and for choosing black, a color then worn by the royal family only during mourning.
Thirty years later, the Duchess of Cambridge, a 29-year-old newlywed, wore a dress of marked similarity for one of her first formal events in public with Prince William. The impact of the strapless, sweetheart neckline trimmed with small ruffles, and the defined waist was striking in each dress. Catherine's 2011 dress was velvet instead of taffeta, and featured a flowing rather than bouffant skirt.
Princess Diana was famous for her fashion, but only a handful of her dresses could be called "iconic". Although Catherine was not even born when Diana wore her history-making black dress, Catherine is certainly familiar with the high points of Diana's fashion history. If any further reminders were needed, Diana's black gown was sold at a well-publicized London auction in 2010.
In choosing her black Alexander McQueen dress, Catherine is pushing our psychological buttons once again, linking herself in our minds with Princess Diana and reinforcing her own image as an archetypal Fairytale Princess. This deliberate linking began with Catherine's choice of her blue engagement dress. What will the next fashion link will be?
A sad coda: One of the last photographs taken of Princess Diana was a Mario Testino portrait, in which Diana wore a more severe black, strapless dress. The images of the black dresses form bookends of Diana's public life.